The Birth of Vidura in the Sanskrit Mahabharata

Having translated the account of his death last week, I thought I would translate an account of Vidura’s birth. 

In the book of the descent of the primary lineages (ādi-vaṃśa-avataraṇa parvan) of the Ādiparvan (‘The Book of Beginnings’) of the Mahābhārata, we find the following brief account of the birth of Vidura: 

Her it is in Sanskrit (C.E. Mbh. 1.57.77-81):

 

śūle protaḥ purāṇarṣir acoraś coraśaṅkayā //
aṇīmāṇḍavya iti vai vikhyātaḥ sumahāyaśāḥ // 77 //

sa dharmam āhūya purā maharṣir idam uktavān //
iṣīkayā mayā bālyād ekā viddhā śakuntikā // 78 //

tat kilbiṣaṃ smare dharma nānyat pāpam ahaṃ smare //
tan me sahasrasamitaṃ kasmān nehājayat tapaḥ // 79 //

garīyān brāhmaṇavadhaḥ sarvabhūtavadhād yataḥ //
tasmāt tvaṃ kilbiṣād asmāc chūdrayonau janiṣyasi // 80 //

tena śāpena dharmo ‘pi śūdrayonāv ajāyata //
vidvān vidurarūpeṇa dhārmī tanur akilbiṣī // 81 //

 

Here is my verse translation:

 

Accused of being a thief, Aṇīmāṇḍavya

The sage, old, though potent still, was impaled.

Outraged, he spoke thus to the god of Law:

From callow youth, long ago, I stabbed a bird.

This wrong I know, but none other comes to mind.

Why then was my abstinent life ignored?

There is no higher sin than slaying a

Brahmin; you shall be born in a Śudra’s womb! 

Cursed by that sage, subtle Dharma, righteous,

faultless and true, took birth as Vidura.

 

In Prose:

 

An ancient sage (purāṇarṣir) called Aṇīmāṇḍavya, much celebrated (vikhyātaḥ) [and] immensely splendid (sumahāyaśaḥ) [was] impaled (protaḥ) on a stake (śule) on suspicion of being a thief (coraśaṅkayā). The great sage promptly challenged (āhūya purā) Dharma [the god of the Law] speaking thus  (idam uktavān): As a consequence of youthful folly (bālyād), I impaled (viddhā) a small bird (śakuntikā) with a stick (iśīkayā). That offence (tat kilbiṣaṃ) comes to mind (smare), O Dharma, [but] no other (nānyat) wrongdoing (pāpam) does. Why (kasmāt) did  my abundant (sahasrasamitam) austerities (me tapaḥ) not prevail (na ajayat) in this case (iha)? Since (yataḥ) the killing of a Brahmin (brāhmaṇavadhaḥ) is weightier (garīyān) than the killing of all other creatures (sarvabhūtavadhād), you, on account of this offence (tasmāt kilbiṣād), will be born in the womb of a Śudra (śudrayonau)! [The] intelligent, righteous, faultless and subtle Dharma, cursed with the form of Vidura, was indeed born into the womb of a Śudra.

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